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We never found our way to Portugal while living in Germany, so when we were deciding where to spend a few weeks between our arrival in England and our friend’s wedding in Germany, Portugal was at the top of the list. Although we could have checked multiple countries and cities off our bucket list, we generally prefer a slower pace of travel, therefore ended up spending about a month in the country.

Our first accommodation was in the small village of Cabanas de Tavira in the Algarve. From there we explored the Ria Formosa, Faro, and Castro Marim. Spotting flamingos feeding along salt pans was probably my son’s favorite part of our time in the Algarve. The views and beach at Cacela Velha were mine.

The beautiful Ria Formosa from Cacela Velha.
An emergency number to call if you happen to strand yourself on the barrier island. We laughed it off but soon realized how quickly the tide comes in there and found ourselves forging a river up to our thighs on return.
My son had never seen a phone booth in person before. This one had been converted into a mini book store.
Dry fountains at Jardim de Castro Marim.
Castro Marim
These lovely ornate chimney tops were found everywhere we visited.

Before we moved to our next rental we spent a day in the lovely city of Faro. If you ever have a chance to visit, I can highly recommend the free walking tour! Our guide was knowledgeable and gave us some great tips on what to see, and where his favorite eateries were.

Our next “home” was in Portimão, and was located directly across from an Aldi and a Lidl. That was quite convenient for grabbing fresh bread, pastel de nata for breakfast, and the fresh local market was just a 20 minute walk away. I must not forget to mention the oranges! We have never had such delicious oranges in our lives! Interesting fact, the Turkish word for orange is portakal..!

Praia de Alvor boardwalk
Praia dos Três Irmãos
Praia da Rocha
Lighthouse at Praia da Rocha
Can you see the lighthouse from up here?
One of the day trips we took from Portimão was to visit Sagres. The peninsula sits high above the ocean with beautiful panoramic views. Watching the waves violently crash into the cliffs below was mesmerizing.

Our third and final accommodation in Portugal was located about a 90-minute drive north from Lisbon. We were hosted at a small family farm by an elderly couple who spoke no English. Despite that, with our limited knowledge of Spanish, hand gestures, and google translate, we managed to have quite lengthy and lively conversations, punctuated with gifts of delicious homegrown food.

The children helped gather eggs, held baby bunnies, carried branches to a burn pile, and picked veggies alongside our generous hosts. It was a beautiful experience. Mr. José recommended a place we should visit, but we couldn’t quite understand what he was describing. He was telling us about a “gelo fabrik”, which we were assuming was ice, like ice cream, so an ice cream factory? No! He was actually talking about a place up on a mountain that made ice in the 18th century for the royalty in Lisbon! Crazy!

The Real Fábrica do Gelo was the only ice factory in Portugal. In the fall giant stone “trays” were flooded with water by a wind-powered pump. When it got cold enough to freeze the water, a guard would ride about 5 km into town to wake the workers before sunrise so they could come to collect the ice and store it in large stone underground silos until summer.

The ice blocks would be wrapped in straw and paper and carried down the Montejunto mountain on the backs of donkeys. They were then transferred onto ox carts bound for the Tagus River and finally loaded onto “snow boats” headed downriver to Lisbon. All this so the royalty could have iced beverages and ice cream!

Stone ice trays
Breathtaking views from Montejunto
There were many windmills at the top of the mountain, most ruined but some beautifully restored.

I’m always a bit reluctant to actually tour large metros or tourist “traps” but the lure of Lisbon and Sintra was irresistible. Sintra wasn’t a trap at all. Although it’s highly trafficked with tourists, we arrived at Quinta da Regaleira after peak hours and enjoyed strolling through the palace gardens in relative peace. It was like being in a whimsical fairytale garden, complete with labyrinths and towers for long-haired princesses.

View of Castelo dos Mouros from Quinta da Regaleira
One of many hidden passages on the palace grounds
Another tower to climb!
Initiation Well
My princess in a tower
We had a long walk from the palace to our car, but at least it was a scenic route.

Our trip into Lisbon proper consisted of us parking in Belem and walking up the Tagus to the Cais das Colunas. The last couple of miles Lucy and I took a tram and the boys rented an electric scooter. Of course, we stood in line at Pastéis de Belém for their famous, original pastel de nata. It was incredible, but I honestly loved the cream-filled croissant the most.

There’s really so much more I could say about beautiful Portugal, but you just need to go yourself! The food is fresh and inexpensive, the people are warm and ready to share their culture, and the landscape and landmarks are enchanting. I always leave a little piece of my heart wherever I travel, but I think this time a bigger chunk was left behind.

Pastel de Nata angels
Belem Tower
25 de Abril Bridge

And now a few Portuguese pets! I will have to eventually make an album entirely of the furry friends we encounter on our travels.

Always befriending the locals

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